Bedtime Wars

Like so many people, my friends included, I decided that my daughter’s second birthday was the perfect time to make the move from a cot to a toddler bed. How stupid was I? Very.

I have always been a bit smug about my little one’s sleeping habits. Since she was six weeks old we have had a good sleeping routine chez Matthews and only illness and a four day trip to Cornwall caused it to wobble. So, naively it turns out, I assumed that changing beds would be easy.

For the last month my little angel has declared war on sleep, she doesn’t need it apparently. I have joined the ranks of those people I have seen on Super Nanny and Channel 4 Bedtime Live. I have spent every five minutes taking it in turns with my husband to walk back upstairs and put my daughter back to bed, only to be greeted by ‘ello Mumma’ and a very happy smile. She doesn’t scream, she doesn’t shout, she just waits at the stair gate surrounded by books and mega blocks.

I know I could have left her in her cot and at least once a night my husband suggests putting her back in it, but I refuse to be beaten. I will win the war. Anyway we’re going to need the cot for someone else in five months time so I’d rather not have to explain to a a two and a half year old why the new baby has taken their bed.

So to all those people thinking that now is the time to move up to a big bed, DON’T DO IT, unless you have to.

Thank God It’s Half Term

So this normal mummy is now staring at half-term and the chance to spend quality time with her husband and child. Unfortunately fate has intervened and for the last two days i’ve been in bed with the worst virus since I got shingles 2 Christmases ago. I’ve lost my voice, much to my husband’s amusement, and can’t stand up for very long.

It’s just so annoying, but on the positive side being ill got me sent home from work 2 days early (you know you’re ill when you’re a teacher and your boss says that you really shouldn’t be there) and I have some time to get better without feeling too guilty about missing lessons.

I can still spend time with the family and Phoebe has already decided that climbing over mummy is a fun new game!

New Year, New Mummy?

2013 has arrived and 6 days late I’m thinking about a New Year’s resolution. I say thinking because every other year I  have just thought about how I would like to change my life and then done nothing. But what if I could be a bit different this year?

Slimmer me? I’ve been going to Slimming World for 5 months and have lost the grand total of 9lbs. I know plenty of people who in that time have lost the 2 and a half stone I need to lose, including my Mum, but on the plus point I do weigh less than when I got pregnant and if i’m honest I don’t really stick to the eating plan that well. If I just stuck to the plan then I could lose lots.

Career me? If I were really serious about progressing in my career I think I might have done more about it. I’m not sure i’m cut out to be a Deputy Head or Head Teacher. I always feel torn between work and being a mum; I want to do my job well but I worry that I don’t spend enough time with Phoebe. A more focused career me is not going to make me happy.

Mummy me? Now when I went back to work I made the choice to go down to 4 days a week and spend quality time with Phoebe. I definitely spend time with her but it’s not always quality and i’m not sure that she enjoys herself (i know I don’t always). I think I could work on the time we spend together and work in some more fun activities; thanks to Peppa Pig they may involve jumping and muddy puddles.

Wife me? I am often a complete witch to my husband. He doesn’t deserve it but he’s the only person I can vent to when i’ve had a bad day or am just feeling really hormonal. I don’t always appreciate how much time he spends with Phoebe and how hard a freelance web designer has to work. He always talks about date night so this year should be the year we have more of them and remember that we are a married couple and not just mummy and daddy.

Me me? I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on me, I don’t know many mums to young children who do. However I have been thinking that  little bit more time spent on me might make me a bit happier. I’ve written before about not liking to leave Phoebe when i’m not at work because I feel guilty, but a guilty me is not a happy me and unhappy me is not a nice person to be around. I’ve always wanted to be a published writer; I’ve written a whole novel (which isn’t very good) and sent drafts of it and a children’s book to agents (and been rejected). Rejection is a bitter blow and I think I gave up after the first 10 or so.

So what resolution should I make? There’s so many parts to my life I’ve found it hard to decide. So hard that I haven’t made any resolutions at all, because writing all this down has made me realise that there are several aspects I want to change but not in the form of a resolution that I may break and then find that I am disappointed with myself and get depressed. What I am going to do is make small changes and try to do things that make me and my family happier.

A Weighty Issue

I don’t know about anyone else but, from a weight point of view, I absolutely loved being pregnant. For the first time since I was about 15 I didn’t worry about my weight. Yes I did get on the scales every so often but in the first six months I put on half a stone and I was happy. Thanks to morning/afternoon/evening sickness I couldn’t stand the taste of chocolate for three months and my obsessive love of cheese sandwiches and jacket potatoes with cheese did not seem to cause any problems.

It seems unfortunate then that even when I was pregnant people still felt the need to comment on my weight. It was mentioned that I seemed to be getting big very quickly, “are you sure you’re not having twins” was one comment from a colleague. I was 20 weeks and definitely knew I wasn’t having twins. Interestingly, I’d been told by my midwife that I was measuring a little small. The comments from work were hurtful, even if meant in jest, but I ignored them because in the back of my head I knew that secretly other people were jealous.

Why were they jealous? Well, to start with I was having a baby and some people want one but can’t or are now too old and remembering what it was like, also it’s the one time where you can legitimately get a bit bigger and eat cake with impunity!

The “big” problem really starts about one week after baby has arrived. Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against people who manage to snap back into their pre-baby jeans after six weeks, I just wish I was one of them. As new mums we are bombarded with images of celebrities who have got back to their teeny tiny size six figures after just eight weeks. They are shown parading with their little darling looking fantastic. What you don’t see, because they are in the car ready to help at a moment’s notice, is the nanny, the personal trainer and the bodyguard. Celebrity mums can get their figures back quickly because they can afford to have help.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, if I could afford it I would be hiring the services of a nanny and a personal trainer. What I object to is having these celebrities being held up as some shining example for us all to follow. I too joined the many new mums who join a slimming group after their eight week check. I did lose weight but it wasn’t because I was trying to follow the diet, it was because I was breastfeeding my daughter and she didn’t start on solids until the recommended six months. I lost my baby weight and Phoebe was given the maximum amount of protection possible. Everyone’s a winner.

But, and there’s always a but, what I forgot to mention was that when I got pregnant I was already overweight (actually I had a BMI of 31 so was technically obese!). Now, over a year after giving birth, I’ve decided that possibly I need to lose a bit of weight; about two stone if I’m honest! So I have given into to the urgings of the media, the need to actually be healthy and the thought that it might be nicer to weigh a little bit less before I get pregnant again.

And so the rollercoaster of life continues…

Stairgate!

Last week I had a lovely text message from my husband telling me “Phoebe has just learnt to climb the stairs”. Wonderful I thought. This is a momentous occasion and one we should celebrate; not only can she walk but now she can climb. We can buy a climbing frame!

One week late I have changed my mind and my husband has bought a second stair gate for the bottom of the stairs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Phoebe is developing her skills and has become so adventurous but it is a bit wearing. Watching your child climb the stairs over and over is not the most fun thing in the world and you have to do it because, God forbid, she might slip and fall and I’d never forgive myself.

Phoebe has not learnt how to come down the stairs safely and shows no interest in wanting to learn yet (it’s far too easy to put your arms up and be carried back down by your loving parents). So, meanies that we are, we are going to put a gate at the bottom of the stairs to prevent accidents. I can already see Phoebe’s face as she shakes the bars like an old fashioned convict deprived of her fun.

One Year Wiser

‘I’m a survivor’, possibly a little bit over the top but we have just passed Phoebe’s first birthday and she’s okay and Phil and I aren’t divorced; all in all I’d call that a good year. Not that we haven’t had some ups and downs, as well as interesting other family issues totally unrelated to our new little one.

I don’t think anything will ever prepare you for the huge upheaval in the form of the life changing arrival that is you first baby. You can look at your friends and see how they are coping with their own children and say from a distance that it looks easy, it isn’t. Being wholly responsible for another person twenty four hours a day is bloody hard but not without its rewards.

Over the last year I think I’ve experienced every emotion under the sun; from absolute joy to deepest despair yet not once have a regretted the decision to have my little girl. There were times, often at three in the morning, when I caught myself wondering what I had done or what was wrong with me that my baby just would not sleep. I got through it eventually and, to be honest, Phoebe has been a good sleeper since she was about three months old; I know people with two and three year olds who have never slept a whole night! Though I would argue with the idea from medical professionals that ‘sleeping through’ is five hours continuous sleep; I’m still very tired after only five hours sleep.

The best moments of my year have been all the firsts we have been able to experience; from Phoebe’s first smile to the first wobbly steps she took at eleven months. The look on my mother’s face as she help Phoebe for the first time when she was just six hours old was priceless and one that I wish I could have shared with my father who sadly died without ever meeting my husband or Phoebe. Firsts with food have been magical and funny and at the same time; nothing beats watching a small child trying to ram a piece of chocolate cake into their mouth or the day we went to Granny’s for dinner and Uncle David got Phoebe covered in toffee sauce. Phoebe now refuses to be spoon fed and wants to feed herself all the time. She hasn’t quite mastered holding a spoon so we’re just a bit messy.

And the lows, well they have been there, I’ve been diagnosed with PND and I have to work hard some days to find the positives but I always look at Phoebe as a blessing and someone who has made my life much richer for her presence. There is nothing like her smile as I go to get her out of bed in the mornings.

Postnatal Depression and Me

Around 1 in 10 new mothers will suffer from Postnatal Depression (PND), that’s what the stats in the NHS Birth to 5 book say. Very kindly the paediatrician who saw my daughter just after she was born said I was even more likely to get it as I had suffered from depression before (following the death of my father when I was 21). Now I didn’t sit at home waiting for it to happen, I actually told myself it wouldn’t happen to me because I was stronger now. Strong or not I was wrong and, for the last 7 months I have been diagnosed with PND.

But what does that actually mean? You get a list of sterile symptoms in a booklet to take home from hospital, which if you read them in the first week will have most mothers convinced they have PND. The symptoms don’t quite cover the real feelings of PND and they don’t really tell you that PND is a very personal illness that affects each woman in different ways.

I can’t speak for other people but I want to talk about how PND has affected me.

Separation anxiety

For the first few months of Phoebe’s life, I had to be with her constantly. I worried that no-one else would be looking after her properly like I did. On the few occasions that I could be persuaded to go out without her, I just spent the whole time worrying that something awful had happened to her and I wasn’t there. My husband is a perfectly capable dad but I didn’t trust anyone and consequently got no rest because of it.

Panic attacks

This has happened a few times, usually when I’m not with Phoebe and trying to do something which requires concentration like the shopping. My brain just seems to shut down and I get very confused to the point where I want to burst into tears. Thankfully they are happening a lot less now that I am working on getting better, but they haven’t gone completely.

Guilt and feeling i’m a bad mother

This is probably the main part of my PND and it’s also quite hard to describe. In my head I thought that being a mum would be easy; I had the perfect birth planned out, I would breastfeed straightaway, I would feel overwhelming love for my baby, I would have the full year of maternity leave available to me. None of these things happened.

Phoebe’s birth was very traumatic for her and for me, then, like many mothers I found that breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks. I began to look at my baby as a source of intense frustration and although she was beautiful and I did love her, something was missing. I felt bad for feeling like that and the spiral of bad feelings started from there. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t like my baby and I didn’t trust anyone to look after her, so I never gave myself a rest or even an hour to just relax.

I also worried about going back to work. Would I be able to cope? Who would look after Phoebe? Could we afford it if I worked part-time? The questions just went round and round in my head and I couldn’t answer them.

Working Things Through

I felt that there was no way out to my depression, but I did recognise that I was suffering. I have been lucky enough to have a very good health visitor who gave me some time, as I collapsed into tears at a baby clinic, and she then came round on a series of home visits to talk through how I have been feeling and to give me strategies to cope when I feel overwhelmed. I don’t manage my PND without the help of medication, my doctor was very understanding and praised me for recognising that there was a problem. Anti-depressants won’t solve the problem but they do make it easier to deal with the issues.

It’s not all been plain sailing, at first my husband and I thought that going back to work might help by giving me a distraction and a feeling of being more than just a mother. Unfortunately, the original plan for my return was scuppered by a colleague leaving, meaning I had to take over her classes, and moving into a different year management team with people I had never worked with before. To top it all I got Shingles three days after returning. But I haven’t let this setback beat me. My mother (who admits to suffering from PND herself) gave me the the mantra “If you can’t change it, change the way you feel about it” which I think is the key to working through PND. There are good days and bad days but more often than not, the good outweighs the bad.

Party Planning – Sort of

Two mornings this week I have woken in a cold sweat thinking about Phoebe’s 1st Birthday. Why? Because for some reason I decided to throw a party. What was I thinking, I hear you ask? Even I don’t know. Only last month I went to a 1st birthday party, it was lovely; well planned, full of hyper-active children having fun and not in my friend Julie’s own home! I also remember turning to another mummy friend and saying ‘I don’t think i’ll do anything as big as this for Phoebe’s birthday. Now I am a big liar, what an example to set.

There is a reason for the party. Phoebe’s birthday is 5 days after mine and last year on my birthday (the big 30) I woke up in hospital having been told I was going to be induced. I was then discharged sans induction and missed out on having a proper 30th because of high blood pressure and being overdue. This year I want a party.

I haven’t had a birthday party in years, probably because I was scared that no-one would turn up. So in order to boost the possible guest list I have made it a joint birthday party for me and Phoebe. Set up the event on Facebook, invited friends and fellow mummies, listened to husband when he said that not everyone would come; everyone has said they will come.

If it rains we’re buggered! x

Food For Thought

This weekend was a good one for me. Not because it was Mothering Sunday; I was woken up at 4.30am by a baby with a cold, but because I managed to make my own baby food. It might sound a silly thing to be happy about but you haven’t met my baby. Over the last month or so she has developed an aversion to baby food from a jar. Now I know that some mothers will be holding their hands up in horror that I fed my baby shop bought food, but I just found it easier; it took the hassle out of meal times. Unfortunately my daughter did not share my love of shop bought baby food (having tasted it now I don’t blame her) and was demanding something else. So I ventured into the kitchen to make homemade baby food.

At this point I would just like to say that although my husband has bought the Annabel Karmel baby food recipe books, I’m one of those people who always thinks they can do better or who doesn’t like the sound of any of the recipes (honestly I am worse than a picky toddler in that respect).Having read the recipe book, I decided to come up with my own concoction; salmon, broccoli, carrot and passata pasta. Prepared in 15 minutes it contained the previously listed ingredients and nothing else. When I had finished, and mixed it all together, it looked and smelled like cat food. I was a bit disappointed. Next door’s cat however was sat on my kitchen windowsill expectantly. I did not give up though and ceremonially put some in a bowl for my daughter’s lunch. She ate the lot with no complaints.

The moral of my tale? Well there isn’t one really, making your own baby food can be time consuming and I think I’ll have to do it in batches or it will take over my life. But it is rewarding to see it all being eaten and to know every ingredient that went in was natural and healthy. I was a happy mummy.

Teething Troubles

From the minute my daughter turned 3 months, I think she was teething. At first, like many new mums, I had no idea what the problem was; all I knew is that she was grouchy and irritable and constantly wanted a cuddle. Now it’s obvious that she was teething as she exhibited pretty much all the signs I now know to look out for. Here are some of the key indicators:

  • Dribble – teething babies will often produce a lot of saliva (you may be surprised at how much) so have a bib at the ready.
  • Red or pink flush spots on their cheeks.
  • Chewing – lots of babies like to put things in their mouths but teething babies will often chew objects almost constantly.
  • A slightly raised temperature – make sure that this is not being caused by something else before you decide it’s teething.
  • Changes in sleep patterns or excessive waking at night – teething is painful and many babies will find it more painful lying in their cot at night as there is nothing to distract them.
  • Clingy behaviour – it’s only natural that when a baby is in pain they will want the comfort of their mother or father.
  • Rejection of breast/bottle/food because it hurts their gums

What I didn’t know was that my daughter was going to be teething on and off forever!! Of course I’m exaggerating but it does sometimes feel that she lurches from teething to illness and back again without any real stops in between. I hope that I’m not alone in this and several friends have suggested the various methods they have used to try and keep the teething discomfort to a minimum in the children:

  • Calpol – yes I know I’m using the brand name but where would we be without this paracetamol liquid. It helps bring down temperatures and pain associated with teething and can be used from as early as two months (provided your baby was born at term).
  • Infant Neurofen – This works in a similar way to paracetamol as it helps to reduce temperatures and swelling. It shouldn’t be used with babies under three months.
  • Teething gel – Bongela, Calgel, Dentinox Gel, they all work the same way; you rub a small amount on your baby’s gum and it numbs the area. Gels can be good if your baby has only mild teething problems, they can be used up to six times a day and in conjunction with paracetamol.
  • Teething rings – these come in all shapes and sizes and basically just give your baby something to chew to try an ease the discomfort. Many now come filled with a gel which will stay cold if you first put it in the fridge for a couple of hours and will help ease pain.
  • Carrot sticks and cucumber sticks – these act a bit like teething toys and have the added bonus of helping your child learn how to eat finger food.
  • Teething granules – this is a homeopathic which some of my friends swear by, I haven’t tried them so couldn’t tell you whether they work, or how they work. Find them in health food shops and pharmacies.
  • Amber necklaces and bracelets – Until my daughter was given one of these I had never heard of amber as a teething remedy. The theory is that heat from the skin releases natural oils in the amber which are soothing and help reduce inflammation and pain. I’m not sure how well I think this works but my little girl seems to have had less problems with teething when she’s been wearing her necklace.

 

Obviously it’s up to you how you deal with your child and their teething. Although it can feel like a never ending process, remember you are not alone and every other parent in the world has gone through it at some point. Never be afraid to ask your doctor or health visitor for more advice/help if you’re not sure.